Many of European countries have a one-pot dish into which odds and ends of the beast and various cheap vegetables are thrown, and cooked until all components sit fall-apart tender in a rich broth. Examples include Lancashire hot-pot in the UK, the famed French pot-au-feu, and the various cocidos of Spain.
Depending on where you’re eating one of these stews, you may find it all served together – the pot placed in the middle of the table for diners to dip a ladle into and fish for the tastiest morsels – or in a series of courses beginning with a soup course of the broth (caldo), followed by a vegetable course, and finally the meat.
With the long-awaited advent of spring, we realized that our opportunities for making such a dish were melting away with the last rimes of dirty snow. So, armed with a foot of fresh morcilla found at the (ultimately rather disappointing) Essex Street Market, a pound of dried chickpeas, and several large slabs of pork belly (courtesy of the very magnificent Mitsuwa Japanese supermarket in Edgewater, NJ), we decided it was now or not until the fall.
Everything we’d read suggested making cocido took both a long time and wasn’t easy. Happily, neither of these proved to be entirely true, and if you’ve got a couple of hours to spare one weekend, you can, with minimal preparation, make yourself a wonderfully flavorful three-course meal for 6 people without even breaking a sweat.
Though research suggests it doesn’t conform exactly to a typical Cocido Madrileño, this preparation closely resembles the cocido we ate in Madrid last year, and, ingredient-wise, is very similar to an Asturian-style Cocido Montañes with the exception of using chickpeas (garbanzos) instead of white beans.
For us, in spite all the porky deliciousness of the meats, the broth was the best part of this dish. It was incredibly delicious and was so infused with the flavors of all the ingredients that it was impossible, even in taking a small bit of each meat and vegetable in a mouthful, to get the same flavor.
Ultimately, the best thing about this cocido was not just the great satisfaction derived from a simple, peasant dish, but that it made us feel oddly wistful about the departure of winter. A feeling we did not anticipate at all.
- 2 pints (1liter) good chicken stock
- 2 pints (1liter)cold water
- 1lb (1/2kilo) pork belly, cut into 4 large pieces
- 2 pigs feet (trotters) cut into pieces
- 1lb dry chickpeas
- 2 large chorizo
- 8inches (20cm) or 2 large links morcilla (blood sausage)
- 4oz (250g) smoked bacon
- 1 large onion, studded liberally with cloves
- 1 head garlic, sliced in half
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2inch lumps
- 1/2 head of savoy cabbage
- 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
- 5 large sprigs flat leaf parsley bound with twine
- 3 bay leaves
- 8 black peppercorns
- 1/2lb vermicelli (fideos)
- Soak chickpeas (garbanzos) in plenty of cold water for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight
- Drain and reserve
- Brown meat on all sides, using a tbsp of olive oil if necessary
- Remove chorizo to a plate and add stock, water, bay, peppercorns, bacon, parsley, onion & garlic to other meats in a pot large enough to accommodate all your ingredients
- Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours.
- Wrap chickpeas in cheesecloth, secure with kitchen twine and add to pot.
- Introduce chorizo to pot at this time, bring back to a boil, and simmer for another hour.
- Add potatoes, carrots and cabbage to pot and simmer for another 1/2 hour.
- Cocido is basically done at this point. Check for seasoning and correct if necessary.
- With a slotted spoon, remove everything from pot and place in a dish in a warm oven.
- Skim fat off broth before bringing it to a boil
- Break vermicelli into 1-2inch (2-4cm) pieces and add to broth.
- Boil for 4-6 minutes or until al dente
- Serve noodle broth as first course.
- Plate other components (after removing chickpeas from cheesecloth bag) and enjoy with a large glass of spicy Ribero del Duero.
- Rub extended belly and take well-earned nap (optional).